TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Dec. 12, 2000 (UPI) - Two Democrats crossed party lines Tuesday and joined their Republican colleagues in the Florida House of Representatives to approve electors pledged to Republican Texas Gov. George W. Bush. The vote was 79 to 41.
The Republican-dominated state Senate is expected to approve the resolution Wednesday afternoon. It put off the vote in hopes the U.S. Supreme Court might issue a definitive ruling before then that would make the resolution unnecessary.
Bush has a certified margin of 537 votes in the state over Democratic Vice President Al Gore. The Florida Supreme Court Friday ordered a statewide manual recount of "undervotes" -- ballots on which machines detected no choice for president -- but the U.S. Supreme Court halted the recount and is deliberating whether it should continue.
Whoever gets Florida's 25 electoral votes will have the Electoral College majority to become the 43rd U.S. president.
Tuesday was the last day for contests over electors to be settled to assure them a "safe harbor" from challenge when Congress meets to count the electoral votes in January. The U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures the ultimate right to determine how electors are picked.
"Unless and until the United States Supreme Court guarantees us that Florida's electors are protected, then it is our duty, based on the best advice we could get, to move forward, and it's been suggested we should act sooner rather than later," House Speaker Tom Feeney said.
All the House Republicans voted for the resolution. Will Kendrick of Constance and Dwight Stansel of Tallahassee were the two Democrats who crossed the aisle. Stansel said that his constituents demanded it, as he represents a normally Republican district that went for Bush.
"After six weeks of legal challenge after legal challenge, and delay after delay, there is still a lingering doubt as to the validity of our 25 representatives to the Electoral College," Rep. Mike Fasano, a Republican, said. "It is simply unconscionable that we could leave here today without absolutely and finally guaranteeing that Florida's 15 million people are represented on Dec. 18."
Democrats condemned the joint resolution to select Bush electors as illegal, immoral, unfair and politically dangerous.
Speaking on behalf of an amendment that would have halted the effort until the legal battles are resolved, Democratic Minority Leader Rep. Lois Frankel suggested to her Republican peers no action was the best move.
"I am proposing the addition of new amendment language," she said. "In the bipartisan spirit I am trying to help you out. In essence, it tells us to respect the rule of law. This resolution concludes that no action should be taken because it is up to the United States Supreme Court to evaluate the actions of the Florida Supreme Court."
In closing arguments before the voting, Frankel said that the impending vote "saddens me."
"This effort is unjust, it is unnecessary and it is illegal," she said, arguing that it would be unjust to select electors for Bush while Gore still fights to count ballots, unnecessary because a slate has already been chosen for Bush, and unlawful to overturn the results of the legally held election.
"This will bring more lawsuits and further Supreme Court actions," she said. "We'll be extending what we say we're trying to stop."